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Betsy DeVos: States Should Decide How Much Testing Is “Actually Necessary”

By Alyson Klein — March 26, 2017 2 min read
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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a video interview that it should be up to states and districts to decide how frequently to test their students.

“It’s really a matter for states and locales to determine how much testing is actually necessary for measuring what students are learning,” DeVos said Friday. “I think it’s important to know and understand, however, what they are learning, and it’s important for parents to have that information, so that they can be assured that their students are in the right place. ... Testing is an important part of the equation, but I think it’s really a matter for the states to wrestle with, to decide how and how frequently the testing is actually done.”

Her answer came in response to a question from WFTV Florida’s Martie Salt, who asked DeVos how much testing is enough and what should change about testing.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But the law also allows states to offer a number of smaller, interim tests for accountability purposes, instead of one big test at the end of the year.

And it allows states to experiment with new forms of testing in a few districts before taking them statewide, as well as use federal funds to take a close look at the amount of state and local tests they offer.

DeVos was referring to those flexibilities, said an education department official in response to a request for clarification of her remarks.

In the interview, DeVos noted that ESSA, which she said has “requirements for measuring achievement,” is about to be implemented nationwide, and that states are crafting their plans for the law.

She said that she expects Florida (which, in her view, has “always been on the cutting edge of just about everything educationally,”) will be “thinking this through in a very holistic way, reflecting on the reality that a lot of parents and a lot of educators have thought there has been too much of a focus on testing and frequency of testing.”

The interview was part of DeVos’ trip to Orlando, Fla., in which she visited Valencia College, a community college that is considered a stand-out for its work on dual enrollment and career readiness. While at the school, DeVos held a roundtable with students, school officials, business leaders to delve deeper into those issues.

During that roundtable, DeVos also expressed support for allowing students to use Pell grants, which help low-income kids cover the cost of college, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which covered the roundtable.

The Senate panel that oversees education spending approved a bill last year that would allow for so-called “summer Pell.” The change would be paid for using a current surplus in the Pell grant program. But the Trump administration’s budget calls for shifting $4 billion of that surplus to other priorities.

You can watch the full interview with WFTV’s Salt below. The testing question is at about the 4:30 minute mark.

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